Consumers and Retailers Battle Inflation

By: James Flippin · February 24, 2023 · Reading Time: 3 minutes

Increasing Food Costs

Conventional personal finance wisdom will tell you cooking meals at home, instead of eating out, is one of the best ways to save money. But, seeing as the cost of groceries increased 11.3% last month, this may no longer be the case.

This sharp price spike is around 5% higher than the overall rate of inflation, and it’s causing some consumers to make tradeoffs when shopping. To compensate for higher food prices, many are cutting back on purchases of other items. In turn, this is forcing retailers to find other strategies to drive those purchases back up.

Walmart’s Data

As the world’s largest retailer by revenue, Walmart’s (WMT) sales can act as a microcosm of the American economy and often yield key insights into how consumers are shopping.

On that note, CEO Doug McMillon recently stated that the retail giant is seeing increased food prices lead to softer sales of electronics, toys, apparel, and home goods. Executives also noticed that Americans are making “choiceful, discerning, thoughtful” decisions about what they buy, and they are going above and beyond to hunt for bargains.

Discounts Coming Your Way?

Elevated food prices put pressure on sales in other categories, which in turn can impact retailers’ bottom lines. In fact, Walmart, where groceries comprise 56% of sales, is far better protected from the trend than, for example, Target (TGT), where groceries account for only 20% of sales, or Home Depot (HD), where they aren’t sold at all.

Although diminished consumer spending is driving the trend, it could wind up being a good thing for shoppers. With profit under pressure, retailers will look to other ways to clear out inventory of non-food items — including offering discounts. In other words, while food prices continue to rise, discounts on everything from electronics to apparel to toys could well be on the horizon.

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